It's All About Business

DFW AIRPORT, TX — Get to know the Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport and the people who run it, and one gets the sense that this airport is something different. It’s vast acreage in a sea of suburbia midway between the two cities is one...

We added Virgin America and Spirit started this year. We expect to see more growth from the low-cost carriers at DFW. We’ve also seen a lot of growth on the cargo side. We added Air China Cargo from Shanghai. Korean does nine 747s a week, and it has increased their passenger frequency as well.

The one world alliance is shaping up and going to most of the important cities in the world.

ab: Are there any particular countries or regions that are on your ‘hot’ hit list?

Fegan: One of our target markets is Taipei. Clearly, China — we don’t have service to Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong. All three of those can support service to DFW. Part of that is a pilot issue with American; their scope [clause] does not allow them to fly that without an extra crew. It’s one of the things that’s on the table in their labor negotiations.

It’s where airplanes like the 787 come into play. Three years from now there will be several hundred of these in the fleet and we’re hopeful the 787 will be transformational for the airport as well.

India is our largest unserved market. To the south, there are markets in Lima, Bogata, and others we feel we can support. The Middle East — we have Emerates, and have had interest from other carriers. In Europe, we have BA and Iberia as part of the one world alliance; but also Air Berlin is now part of that alliance and something could materialize with them.

We’re looking at Manchester, England. We have no service to Italy; we think there’s a strong demand there. It’s finding the right airline with the right airplanes, and which is part of the right alliance at the right time.

ab: Is there anything in particular you’ve learned along the way regarding air service development that could be shared as a best practice?

Fegan: We have a lot of the pieces. We have virtually unlimited capacity for an international carrier; we have great facilities with Terminal D; and we have a very aggressive incentive program which virtually makes it very inexpensive to near free from an airport cost standpoint for the first two years of their operation.

The real driver in all this is: How big is the market? This is a market that likes to travel, and it’s the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States. We have 20 Fortune 500 companies located here. All the things that an airline is looking for we have here.

Another aspect of it is, is it part of the airline’s strategy to serve this market? And that is driven largely by the alliance. The ones that seem to work the best are those that have a hub on both ends. It’s so powerful.

So, we’re one of the great super-hubs in the world. If we connect with other hubs there’s typically enough passengers to make them viable.

ab: Some airports and their sponsors are exploring the aerotropolis concept, the idea of building or rebuilding a region with the airport as the core for development. It seems that DFW is ahead of the game on that concept.

Fegan: We’ve got 18,000 acres of land and we’ve dedicated 12,000 acres for pure aviation uses. We laid it all out to make sure we don’t do anything to take away from our airfield capacity. That still leaves us 6,000 acres; from a commercial development standpoint, it’s a lot of land. It’s bigger than most downtowns.

We’ve been focusing on development that helps support this operation. We try to attract companies that can take advantage of the proximity to cargo and the passenger terminals. For example, in our warehouse distribution area, the International Commerce Park, we have great companies like Aviall, the largest aircraft parts company that ships parts all over the world. We have Pratt & Whitney, DHL. Our most recent deal was with the Dallas Cowboys world merchandising headquarters with a 200,000-square foot warehouse.

We have a development on the south end called Southgate, and in January we’ll be taking an action item to the board to hire a developer for that property.

It also generates revenue, which goes to offset our costs and makes us more cost-competitive. And we are very cost-competitive — we have one of the lowest cost structures of any airport in the country. When you combine our airport costs, the airline costs, plus any delay costs, this airport versus others is substantially lower.

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